If you’re a writer who wants to move on to the next stage of your writing journey, there’s no better time to set a writing goal than right now.
Don’t wait to make new year’s resolutions, or until you reach a certain age, or when you have free time (you never will) – NOW is the time to set smart goals and progress with your writing journey.
But where do you start?
In this article, I’ll demonstrate how to get a goal-setting process in place and how to create measurable goals, and I will provide you with a few examples of how each one can be achieved.
Are you ready to become a better writer?
Time to work towards that finish line!
Why Writers Need A Writing Goal
When writing a book, very few writers have the luxury of both time and a regular income to support them while they pen their bestselling novels. Most of us have to juggle a day job, childcare, and other constraints that get in the way of creativity and butt-in-seat writing.
This is why we all need an actionable goal to strive for.
It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy writing poetry for fun, are looking to enter your short stories into a competition or two, or whether your ultimate aim is to be a full-time novelist, writer, or journalist – if you want to write, you need to get those words down on paper.
But life isn’t always that easy. Creativity can’t be easily switched on and off… but, like anything, you CAN train yourself to be more productive.
Different Types Of Writing Goals
Every writer has a goal. For some of us, it’s simply to get back to the book we put in the metaphorical drawer a year ago, for others it’s to write five-hundred words a day or to get an agent.
Whatever your writing dreams, no matter how big or small, every writing goal is achieved via small steps- smaller goals- that all lead to your final big dream.
Let’s take a look at three different types of writing goals.
Many writers aim towards having a writing career.
That can look very different for every person; from becoming a full-time, self-published author, to getting a great traditional book deal, or (like me) doing a bit of both alongside freelance and corporate writing.
In order to complete a writing project, the first thing you need to do is establish all the manageable steps you need to achieve in order to reach your end goal.
Larger goals, for example writing two books a year, can’t be achieved overnight. But smaller ones, such as writing 2,000 words a day, can be done quite easily.
See below for a 10-step guide to achieve just that!
Perhaps it’s not getting words on paper, or monetary success, that you are aiming for.
For many writers, their goals revolve around finding the focus and ideas they need to better their writing.
Ideas don’t come to everyone out of the blue; many people have to actively take the time and make the effort to think up their next great idea.
Others may be experiencing writer’s block or imposter syndrome and struggling to get back into the flow of writing again.
Setting a goal of coming up with ideas, plotting, and planning is just as important as getting the words on paper.
For other writers, it’s not writing skills or ideas that are getting in the way of achieving their goals – it’s simply finding the time to make a dent in their manuscript.
Writing within a tight time frame can put a lot of pressure on writers, especially those signed to a multi-book deal with agents and editors awaiting their next piece of work.
In this guide, we will also be looking at how to manage your time and make enough space in your week to reach your goals.
Specific Writing Goals
Or perhaps you have a very specific writing goal.
Regardless of your writing process, many writers have writing goals outside of their planned books that they wish to also fulfil. Perhaps it’s to write their first screenplay, win an award, write more short stories, or simply achieve a better work/life/writing balance.
Whatever your writing goal is, the following steps should help you understand where you are heading and how to get there in a manageable way.
10-Point Step-By-Step Process For Setting Writing Goals
Anything is achievable if you plan for it!
I have written thirteen novels and four manga stories in the last eight years, all while freelancing part-time, emigrating, and raising two children. And the only way I managed to get anything done was by setting goals.
But setting a writing goal isn’t simply telling yourself you will write a novel in the next six months. That is a big goal (and, for most, unrealistic).
The secret is to set smaller goals, ones that are easier to achieve, and bit by bit reach your main goal.
For example, in August 2021 I promised myself I was going to finish a new book, find an agent, and get a decent book deal. All of which I managed to do. But, much like setting any other goals in life, I had to approach them in a methodical way.
Here’s my 10-point step-by-step process:
1. Decide What Your Overall Goal Is
What’s your big goal?
To have a finished manuscript? To find an agent? Or to have a career in writing full-time?
Spend time thinking about this, because no matter how large your ambitions it’s important to know in which direction you are heading.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Next… be realistic.
It’s okay to have a lofty goal, as long as you don’t beat yourself up when you don’t achieve it overnight.
The secret to success, any success, is setting smart goals.
In this case, start with how long it will take you to plot your novel. Then set time aside to write it (I wrote mine quickly during NaNoWriMo – a free initiative that helps writers meet their word count and get their first draft completed in a month).
You may decide to write 1,000 words a day, spend two hours an evening planning your book, or write every Saturday. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s achievable and fits in with your life.
3. Find A System
The next step is to keep track of your small steps (that will eventually lead to bigger steps).
I like to use a notebook, others create charts or graphs in a bullet journal, an Excel spreadsheet, or download an App that will keep track of their day-by-day progress.
4. Pace Yourself
This part is important. Steady wins the race!
Big goals are great, but going too fast too quickly increases your chances of burning out or losing interest. Ensure your goal is a measurable goal, ie. aim for the same thing regularly (words written, time spent, agents approached) and take it step-by-step.
To do that it helps to…
5. Be Accountable
Personally, I love to go on Twitter and start an accountability thread. I also tell my other author friends that I plan to finish the first draft of my latest book by so-and-so date.
I’m sure no one really cares – but feeling as if people have expectations of me really spurs me on. Likewise, when I co-write with other authors, we keep one another accountable. If I tell my co-author I will have 2,000 words with her tomorrow, I won’t let her down.
So, see what (and who) keeps you on your toes!
6. Reward Yourself Each Step Of The Way
Set a daily goal… and a weekly reward.
Perhaps you colour in a square for every 1,000 words written and when you hit certain milestones you buy yourself a gift.
Or you buy a box of chocolates but you can only eat one every 5,000 words.
Or, as I do, simply bask in all the applause on Twitter as you announce that you have hit your weekly word count.
7. Don’t Lose Hope
All your goals are achievable as long as they are realistic and you stick to them, but often that steady pace can feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.
Much like when trying to stick to a healthy eating regime or training for a marathon, just because you miss a day of writing doesn’t mean you should pack the whole lot in.
Be kind to yourself!
Create goals that are manageable, and if circumstances change then adjust your writing goals so they are easier to meet.
8. Eyes On Your Own Page
In a world where we are bombarded with news of successful authors, or even our own peers announcing good news on social media, it’s too easy to convince ourselves it will never be us.
Believe me, there are enough writing opportunities out there for anyone and everyone who has the skills, passion and perseverance!
So don’t worry about what other writers are doing, what they are achieving, and what they are shouting about. Keep your eyes on your own paper – you only have yourself to compete with!
9. Be Proud
Reaching the end of a chapter may not big a big achievement for one author, yet it may be a huge pat on the back for another. So be proud of yourself, no matter what goal you set yourself.
When you get to the end of that first draft, even if it’s really rough, you should celebrate. When you land an agent, get a book deal, or simply complete a writing course and better your craft – take a moment to look back and take note of how far you have come.
Because with every goal met you are heading in the right direction!
10. Set A New Goal
And finally, once you have achieved your goal, set other goals. Yep, more goals. New goals!
Look at the specific goal you started with- your big dream- then treat each smart goal you set as a stepping stone to the final big one.
With each step forward, with each goal you meet, you are getting closer and closer to the big one!
3 Things You Need To Meet Your Writing Goals
A Support Network
It’s nigh on impossible to achieve anything in life without a support network; especially being an author.
Writing can be a lonely and frustrating business. Unlike other jobs, you are rarely in an office, rarely working as a team, and your hard work (and even perceived success) is rarely reflected in your earning potential.
The only way to keep going without losing hope is to have people around you who are in the same boat as you.
There are many writing communities online and in person. Here’s a list of ways to find other writers who are also trying to meet their writing goals:
- Join a Facebook writing group
- Join a local writing group
- Get active on the #writingcommunity Twitter hashtag
- Share your work on Wattpad and other free platforms
- Attend writing festivals
- Join writing communities (such as Jericho Writers’ Townhouse)
- Subscribe to writing magazines and take part in competitions
To reach your writing goals you also need to have a strong grasp of reality.
If you’ve never written a novel before, you’re unlikely to write a great first draft in three months (like an established author may do). And that’s okay.
If you have four children and work full time you’re less likely to find the time and energy to write every day. You’re still doing great.
If you are mentally or physically struggling, you will have some days where you can’t hit your word count. Not a problem.
Also, the publishing industry is highly subjective and not a meritocracy. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how hard you try, and how much you really want to be a published author – if agents and publishers don’t think your book is what the public wants right now it won’t get snapped up.
Likewise, even published authors have no control over what publishing advance they get, how many copies of their books are sold, or whether their readers even like their books. All you can focus on are the words and how good they are!
So remain pragmatic and, before setting your goals, be honest with yourself as to how many words you can really manage in a day or a week, and don’t feel like a failure if it takes longer than planned.
Patience & Kindness
To be a writer that stays the course you need to be kind to yourself, which also means being patient.
Believe me, as someone who has regular breakdowns and is currently in her second year of keeping a publishing secret, you really need to learn to go with the flow.
So whether you are starting out as a writer and feel like your first writing project is going too slowly, or you’re an established author trying to set new goals, be patient and give yourself a break.
You deserve no less.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Some Smart Goals For Writing?
The secret to setting effective writing goals is to decide what matters to you. Are you simply looking to finish your story? Or do you need to motivate yourself?
The smartest way to set your goals is to evaluate what your current life looks like and see where you can fit in more writing.
There’s no point telling yourself that you must write 3,000 words a day if you work all day and study all night because you will forfeit rest and that will be counterproductive. So…
- Look at your life and see what will be manageable and when.
- Block time off per day (or week) to write/plan/plot/query/network (whatever you need to do) and stick to it.
- Let others in your life know what you are doing so they can support you.
- Reward yourself when you hit your milestones.
- Be flexible and kind to yourself if you don’t reach them.
How Do You Write Good Goals And Objectives?
- Keywords: Choose a verb like ‘increase, decrease, maintain’ to help you set an overall goal. Such as ‘increase my daily word count from 1,000 to 1,500 per day’.
- Process: Create a system that works for you – whether that’s a chart you fill in, a notebook you keep notes of your progress in, or an app that charts your success.
- Target: Specify the exact steps you need to take to achieve your goals.
- Deadline: Set a date for your goals so that you have something to strive for (and something to celebrate when you achieve it).
Setting goals can be exhausting, and addictive, but ultimately they get you to where you need to be.
It may take a year, it may take ten, it may take a lifetime… but while you are hitting small deadlines and achievable goals you are forever moving forward.
And it’s that constant forward momentum that brings hope, opportunity and – eventually – success!
Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles, take a look at our blog page.